Japan was for sure the most likely candidate to end a USA winning streak that dated back to 2015 and ran through four successful campaigns that led to as many World Titles. Nobody would have imagined that it was going to happen at the end of a game featuring 23 runs, 19 hits and 4 defensive errors. Japan can still celebrate a 16-7 win that leaves Samurai the only team undefeated after three days of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup.
Japan got to USA starter David Hernandez in the bottom of the third and with the game tied at one. Hernandez hit two batters, third baseman Ryeusei Takeoka and designated hitter Takaya Ishikawa singled to put Japan ahead 4-1.
The USA gave the call to lefty Lucas Gordon in the bullpen, but shortstop Toyo Kumada welcomed him with a two-RBI single.
Japan opened the score in the bottom of the fifth. The USA thought they had the third out on a grounder, but Japan challenged the play at first. The video replay showed that first baseman Vukovich was off the bag and Japan took full advantage of the second chance with a couple of two-RBI singles by Kumada and second baseman Shoka Sakashita.
Leading 11-1 and with hard-throwing righthander Junya Nishi on the mound, Japan flirted with a chance to make it short. The USA had a different plan and started eroding Samurai’s lead.
The defending World Champions had a chance to get back in play in the top of the eighth against reliever Shuto Iizuka. The USA had runners at second and third and no one out.
Iizuka got out of the jam thanks to a well-located breaking ball and Japan opened the score again with a four-run bottom half of the frame, highlighted by a home run by right fielder Haruki Yokohama.